Debt and taxes in eight U.S. wars and two insurrections

George J. Hall, Thomas J. Sargent

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    From decompositions of U.S. federal fiscal accounts from 1790 to 1988, we describe differences and patterns in how expenditure surges were financed during 8 wars between 1812 and 1975. We also study two insurrections. We use two benchmark theories of optimal taxation and borrowing to frame a narrative of how government decision makers reasoned and learned about how to manage a common set of forces that bedeviled them during all of the wars, forces that included interest rate risks, unknown durations of expenditure surges, government creditors' debt dilution fears, and temptations to use changes in units of account and inflation to restructure debts. Ex post real rates of return on government securities are a big part of our story.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationThe Handbook of Historical Economics
    Number of pages56
    ISBN (Electronic)9780128158746
    ISBN (Print)9780128162682
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


    • Debt management
    • Fiscal and monetary policy
    • Government budget constraint
    • Tax smoothing
    • War finance

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance
    • General Business, Management and Accounting


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